Instant Reaction: Iowa 83, Illinois 62

(Reese Strickland/USA Today sports)

The Iowa Hawkeyes advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament with a convincing 83-62 win over Illinois on Thursday night at the United Center in Chicago. Some initial thoughts on the win:

  • This was Iowa’s first Thursday win at the Big Ten Tournament since 2013. What?
  • Iowa has rediscovered their shooting groove over the last two games. They shot 51.7% from the field, including 12 of 23 (52.2%) from deep.
  • They’re also sharing the ball incredibly well. 25 assists on 31 made field goals is an absurd number and illustrates just how well they moved the ball against the Illini.
  • The surge of intensity to begin the second half was very evident in this one and helped tilt the game in Iowa’s favor. The Hawkeyes kept beating Illinois to loose balls and the Illini racked up five fouls in the first three minutes of the second frame. Iowa rode that wave to a dominant second half and an easy victory. It goes to show how effort affects outcomes.
  • Speaking of effort, I thought Iowa actually moved fairly well on the defensive end as well, and you have to give credit to Illinois for shooting the ball really well, at least in the first half. Make a habit out of a higher level of defensive intensity and the Hawkeyes can always give themselves a shot to win.
  • Having said that, there are still little things they can do so much better on defense. How can you close out on a shooter and not put a hand up while doing so? How does a trap suddenly turn into a triple team with three opponents standing wide open?
  • Tyler Cook is the best dunker to wear an Iowa jersey since Doug Thomas.
  • Nicholas Baer clearly doesn’t want his swan song to end on a sour note. His 17 points off the bench, including five of six from three-point range, led the team on a night they needed to prove they still have life.
  • Obviously, the road gets tougher on Friday against Michigan, though the Hawkeyes played perhaps their best game of the season in a 74-59 win over the Wolverines back on February 1. A win Friday would put Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals for the first time since 2006.

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